Village chief tagged in cops' ambush in Negros Oriental dies

NEGROS ORIENTAL, Philippines (UPDATED) – A village chief who was tagged in the ambush of 4 policemen in Ayungon town in this province has died, police said on Tuesday, July 23.

Negros Oriental police chief Colonel Raul Tacaca confirmed that Barangay Mabato Chief Sunny Caldera, 51, died on Tuesday, a day after he reportedly drank pesticide.

Tacaca said that Caldera was found on the roadside  on Monday, July 22, vomiting after he supposedly drank pesticide. He was brought to then Bindoy District Hospital then referred to Silliman University Medical Center, where he died on Tuesday.

According to the police, a container of pesticide was recovered from the scene, leading them to suspect that he died by suicide.

“We don’t know what triggered him to commit it (suicide) or if it has something to do with the investigation," Tacaca said, adding that police have yet to talk to the victim’s family.

The provincial police chief added the case was still under investigation.

Police earlier investigated Caldera after he was suspected of involvement in the ambush of the policemen, who were intelligence personnel of the Regional Mobile Force Battalion in Central Visayas. (READ: 4 Negros Oriental cops were set up for ambush, says regional police chief)

Police Brigadier General Debold Sinas, director of Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO-7) based in Cebu City, earlier said  Caldera was suspected of involvement in the ambush after the latter allegedly didn’t mention to the 4 cops that the area was a mass base of communist rebels, though he cooperated with investigators. 

The Mt Cansermon Command of the New People’s Army claimed responsibility for the ambush on the cops on Monday, July 22.

"Based on our intelligence report, the 4 police operatives were gathering information and surveilling the area for another round of Oplan Sauron or Synchronized Enhanced Management of Police Operations where innocent civilians are killed by uniformed personnel in the guise of counter-insurgency efforts,” the rebels said in a statement.

They accused the rebels of "harassing the residents of the area for allegedly supporting the revolutionary movement" and "the residents were forced to evacuate because of continued intimidation.” 

Multiple murder and theft charges were filed against the 20 suspected NPA members on July 19, a day after the ambush. Also charged was Victoriano Anadon, the slain cops' contact they were supposed to meet in the village, but was later found to be allegedly linked to the NPA. –